Why Change is Difficult
All we hear about these days is change—managing
change, driving change, initiating change. We put
ourselves and our organizations under incredible
amounts of stress when attempting to drive change
from the top.
It may be helpful, however, to take a step back and
look at two of the reasons why change is difficult:
people are familiar with the old ways and people are
comfortable with keeping them that way.
Let’s look at the first case: familiarity
with the status quo. Think back over the last year,
the last month, or possibly even the last week and
see if something similar to this situation has
happened to you.
You’re heading home from work. Your spouse
calls to remind you to pick up a movie on the way.
You get into the car and the next thing you know,
you’re pulling into the driveway. You have
absolutely no recollection of how many stop signs you
ran or how many stray cats you hit, but somehow you
arrive home just in time to be scolded because you
forgot to pick up the movie!
Just as you and your car are intimately familiar
with the route from work to home, the people in your
organization are familiar with the current processes
and methods for accomplishing their work. Any attempt
at change must take this into consideration and make
the transition as easy and as sensible as
Now let’s look at the second case: people
are comfortable with the status quo. Try this
example. Fold your arms across your chest. No,
really—stop reading for a minute and cross your
arms. Great! Now unfold them and cross them with the
opposite hand on top. Some of you may have difficulty
actually doing this. How does it feel? Strange?
Remember, in this situation we’re not talking
about changing the complex behaviors and processes of
an organization. Yet, notice how awkward it feels to
simply fold your arms in a different direction. And
note that as soon as possible you’ll have them
back in the position that feels most comfortable.
When attempting to initiate change in your
organization, it is important to consider the process
you’ll take when implementing the change. To
really enhance your chances for success, you also
must also address the personal side of change.
Recognize that organizations are collections of
individuals, and individuals are generally reluctant
to change unless there is a strong compelling reason
to do so.
Make sure that your change initiative has a clear
objective and communicate it to your people in a way
that makes the benefits clear. Change is much easier
when you have a group of allies supporting the effort
rather than a group of adversaries fighting to
maintain the status quo.
A nationally recognized customer service
expert, author, and trainer, RON
ROSENBERG, CSP, recently founded
Drive-You-Nuts.com, a Web site dedicated to helping
people get the service they deserve and to teaching
companies how to provide it. He has been featured in
publications including The New York Times, Smart
Money, and Real Simple and has appeared as a guest on
nationally syndicated radio shows including
“Dateline Washington” and the “Gary
Nolan Show.” For more information, visit his
Web site at www.drive-you-nuts.com